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Who Will Be Our Worship Leader at Grace Hills Church?

Worship LeaderThe position has been filled.

We aren’t hiring a Worship Leader. We’re offering an opportunity to a pioneer. I recently wrote a story about why you might NOT want to join our new church. In that same vein, let me tell you why you might NOT want to be on staff at Grace Hills Church.

  • We don’t have a salary for you. Yet. We’ll try to help you as you raise it, but we don’t have the budget for multiple full-time salaries. I’m raising the financial support for my own salary, in fact.
  • We don’t have an office for you. And the office that doesn’t exist doesn’t have a private restroom or leather couch.
  • We don’t have a band or singers for you. You’ll have to assemble a team from scratch, which is why we need a leader even more than we need a musician.
  • We don’t have a global platform. There are no guarantees you’ll be the next Chris Tomlin launching from Grace Hills. It could happen… but we’re not going to count on it just yet.
  • We have high expectations. You’d have to work. Hard. You’d have to sign a Staff Covenant, live out our Staff Commandments, attend things, serve, tithe, and really love people.

What we are praying for is a leader that has a tight chemistry with our leadership team, a passion for Jesus Christ, a theology of worship thoroughly rooted in Scripture, an adventurous and entrepreneurial bent, and a determination to multiply the Kingdom by always training other worship leaders and helping to foster a church planting movement. Study us to know if we’re a fit for how God has wired you.

Yes, we need a chief musician, in spite of my mad kazoo playing skills. But we’re more concerned that you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and that you’ll lead others to do the same. We’re also concerned that you can handle things being “fast, fluid, and flexible.” You need to be able to turn on a dime, understand trends and culture, and think beyond Sunday morning as you define the “church.”

If you’re still reading, and God is beating on your heart, email me and we’ll start the conversation.

By the way, have you "liked" Grace Hills Church on Facebook yet?

Graphic by Sam Jessup.

The Difference Between Launching and Orbiting

Space Shuttle LaunchIf you’ve ever watched a space shuttle launch, you know that it’s an enormous production. A ton of preparation goes into the event, potentially millions of eyes are watching, and there is a tremendous risk being taken that results in the payoff of having a shuttle in orbit. And when you see the shuttle on the launching pad, you realize that most of the stuff that starts up into the atmosphere is fuel. As the shuttle nears its orbit, the nearly empty fuel tanks fall away. Once in orbit, the shuttle gets to coast with little effort.

Launching requires huge teams of people making sure that everything is precisely calculated. It requires huge amounts of rocket fuel to propel it upward at very high rates of speed. And every split-second of launching is filled with great risk. A single mistake can be quite costly.

Orbiting is literally when something falls toward the earth and misses repeatedly, creating an arc that resembles an object in flight, but the truth is, it’s much more like floating than flying. Or as Buzz Lightyear might put it, orbiting is basically “falling with style.”

We’re in the launch phase of Grace Hills Church. Right now, we’re carefully planning every single detail the best we can and leaving the results in the hands of the Holy Spirit. We’re taking risks. We’re consuming a lot of fuel (funds, that is) and requiring a lot of people to be intensely concentrating on various aspects of ministry to make sure we launch well.

I’m not afraid of failing to launch. I’m not worried that people won’t come or that ministry will cost more money than we have. What keeps me more concerned is our human tendency to prefer orbit over launch. We like to fall, to coast, to see things happen effortlessly. And when we make the transition, in church leadership, from launching to orbiting, we begin to quickly lose momentum and we are at the mercy of the forces outside ourselves to keep us going.

Does that mean we’ll just stay in launch phase forever? Yes and no. No, we won’t always advertise as a “brand new church in Northwest Arkansas.” But we want to maintain a launch mentality in other ways. As we reach the elusive mark of maturity as a church body, we will need to be seizing upon new opportunities, venturing into new ministry territories, and purposely taking new risks in order to have momentum along the way.

Churches that are always moving, building, and remodeling understand this. Churches that are hiring new staff, launching new initiatives, and starting new services, venues, and campuses understand this. Churches that are serious about reaching the next unreached people group around the world understand this.

So my challenge would be, keep launching. No, you can’t always start over as a church, but you can always be in the starting mentality. When we get so big that we’re too confident in our resources to risk anything, we’re merely orbiting. Orbiting works for a while, but orbiting requires zero momentum and never takes us anywhere new.

What does your church need to do today in order to get back into launch phase?

This image or video was catalogued by Kennedy Space Center of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under Photo ID: KSC-96EC-0997 AND Alternate ID: GPN-2000-001877.

Casting the Vision for a New Church Plant

This past Sunday was an exciting day for us. We’ve spent months dreaming and planning for the planting of Grace Hills Church. We hauled our belongings across the country, then stayed with some friends while waiting for the closing on our home purchase. We booked a storefront meeting room at South Walton Suites, just blocks from the headquarters of the world’s largest retailer. We bought coffee from Starbuck’s and sweet refreshments. We set up our projector, arranged the chairs, and checked the facility over to make sure everything was lined up properly.

Then we waited.

The twenty minutes a church planter waits between getting set up and seeing the first person walk through the door seems like an eternity. Would anyone show up? Would we be packing everything up and heading home early with a lot of donuts to eat? (One must find the positive in such cases.)

We were thrilled to greet the first family, then the second and third, and so on. In all nearly forty people came to hear what Grace Hills will be all about, and most gave us very positive feedback and an indication of a desire to continue on this journey with us.

We will do three more meetings like this one, plus some foundational launch team teaching. Our hope is to reach a new wave of potential launch team members with each month’s meetings and activities, which requires quite a bit of work and a ton of just loving on people in our community. We welcome the opportunities that lie ahead and we can’t wait to dig deeper and move forward.

All of that preparation could have seemed a waste had no one shown up to hear the vision. But the preparation could also be a waste if I failed to capture the heart of what God wants to do in northwest Arkansas. Implementation may be the bulk of the workload, but casting the initial vision well is crucial to the gathering team. And it will remain important over the long haul as well, since “vision leaks” (according to Andy Stanley) and needs to be repeated at least every six weeks through various mediums.

So how do you cast a vision for a new church? I’ve never taken a class on the subject, and I’ve never read a book focused specifically on the subject, but as I prepared and delivered this first vision message to my new friends, these are some of the principles I tried to implement:

Start with the Biblical Purposes

Vision has to do more with what we see happening than what the ancient Scriptures have to teach, but any vision that God will bless must absolutely be rooted in His Word. For me, this meant starting with the purposes for which God birthed the very first church – evangelism, fellowship, ministry, worship, and discipleship. So I shared from the Great Commandment (Matthew 22) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28).

Tell a Story

I wanted our crowd to know that starting this new church wasn’t merely the fulfillment of any denominational program quota. Rather, it was the culmination of everything God has done in my life thus far. His calling, my eduction, our experiences, and all of the connections we’ve made led us to the conclusion that God was instructing us to plant Grace Hills Church in northwest Arkansas right now.

Portray the Future

I can see Grace Hills five years from now. I don’t know where we will meet or what our campus will look like yet, but I can see people being rescued, redeemed, refreshed, and revived. I can see addicts being freed, marriages restored, parents and kids unified, and leaders developing to maturity. I see Grace Hills demonstrating God’s love in tangible ways and shocking people with the scandalous grace of a forgiving God.

Set the Agenda

Most people know what our church believes doctrinally, at least in a general sense. We believe in Jesus, His atoning death and resurrection, the Bible as God’s perfect Word, the Trinity, etc. It’s in our faith statement. I was more concerned with communicating our core values since it is our core values that communicate the DNA of our church. I want potential launch team members to understand that we’re purpose driven, that we celebrate creativity, and that we will embrace people with habits, hurts, and hang-ups. These are values that require even greater “buy in” than our core doctrines.

Lay Out the Plan

Leading people is more than inspiring people. Anyone can say the right words and offer inspiration. But mobilization is tough. Follow through is the ticket. Casting a big vision is essential to the survival of a new church, but following a plan and a strategy are vital as well.

Remain Flexible

In other words, while you tenaciously defend your vision, keep a loose grip on some of the details. I learned in Mark Batterson’s book Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God that God is elusive. He wants us chasing Him in all of the turns and crazy loops He takes us through. If you want to grow spiritually, you’ll be ready to make tweaks the moment the first meeting is over.

Love People In Jesus’ Name

If you don’t love people, don’t begin to plant a church. Don’t cast a vision. Don’t rent a facility. Do something else with your life until you realize that people are the mission. If you understand God’s purposes, you can envision the future, you can communicate clearly where you want people to go, and you love them deeply on Jesus’ behalf, then go! The kingdom needs you for such a time as this!

Dear Church… Go and Multiply

My friend, Stephen Gray, has recently made a comment on Twitter that has really hit home with Angie and I…

Church multiplication is a spiritual decision of a church to put the needs of a desperate world before self-preservation.

And that reminds me of another thought offered by my mentor, Grady Higgs…

Churches should be born pregnant.

Multiplying SeedThe book of Acts traces the amazing work of the Holy Spirit through the apostles and it records the numerical growth of the church in its earliest ages. What is interesting to read is that in the first few chapters, God was adding people to the church. Then in Acts 6, there is a division and the leadership gets spread around to seven newly ordained leaders. Suddenly, the church multiplied.

The same is true on a broader scale in Acts 8 when persecution came under Saul and people were scattered around everywhere preaching the Word. The early church was willing (or rather forced by persecution) to lay down its instinct toward self-preservation and begin the work of multiplying.

Multiplying (planting other church-planting churches so that a local church has children and grandchildren) is a scary thing. Why? Because it costs money, takes time, consumes resources, and causes us to devote a little less time to maintaining what we have. But it’s God’s way of aggressively growing His kingdom.

One of the values we’re building into the core of Grace Hills Church is multiplication. We’ll immediately be bringing interns and residents alongside us to learn and grow, whom we will then send out to lead church planting teams elsewhere. We want to be involved in the planning phases of our church’s first baby before our first year of worship services is over. In this way, we’ll be a kingdom-focused “teaching hospital” that has a global understanding of what God is doing in our world.

I’ve already received the question plenty of times, “why plant a church around other churches?” If you’re asking that, you’re thinking too much about geography, buildings, and all the things a church is not. The fact is, there are very few if any places in America where large and overlapping circles of people haven’t yet been reached and changed by the gospel’s influence. And I think we can agree that the number of church buildings physically present in a community is absolutely no gauge of the level of genuine life-transformation that has or has not taken place.

If your church hasn’t been intentional about investing in planting another new church within the last three years, repent and make a change today. Abandon any scrambles for self-preservation and unselfishly invest your resources for the growth of the kingdom of God. I’d hate to be a church sitting on piles of uninvested resources the moment Jesus comes back.

What would we say? “But Jesus… at least we kept our doors open!”

Photo Credit: Raymond Shobe

Ordering the Priorities of Life


Priorities are a continuing struggle for most of us. For people in ministry leadership, this struggle usually doesn’t result from a lack of commitment, but from a lack of clarity about our commitments. That is, we’re either over-committed or we’re committed to mutually exclusive priorities. We are all given 168 hours in a week, but some of us use those hours more effectively than others.

So how do you order your priorities in such a way that major areas of your life don’t fall behind? How do you juggle all the stuff of life so that nothing hits the ground and breaks? First realize that you can’t juggle perfectly. No one can, but if practice makes perfect (or at least grows us toward the goal of perfection) then practice we must!

Define Your Roles

You may not like labels, but I do. I don’t want to be boxed in or defined by a limited perspective, but I do like the clarity of identifying who I am and living out my life according to my God-given roles. For example…

  • I’m a disciple. That’s my first role. before anything else, I’m a child of God, which comes with certain realizations (well-stated in the “Radicalis Declaration“). So my priorities begin with who I am as a believer.
  • I’m a husband. God put me into a till-death-do-us-part, one-flesh relationship with the love of my life and I have certain things I need to be concentrating on when it comes to growing my marriage and growing as a husband (and my wife will attest that I have a long way to go).
  • I’m a Dad. God has given me two of the most precious kids on the planet, and they need for their Dad to focus on how to be a better Dad.
  • I’m a Pastor. And as a Pastor (literally shepherd), I have a focus on people – caring for them, teaching them, mentoring them, and I have plenty of room to grow here too.

The list goes on. I do freelance web design work. I volunteer my services for some organizations. I’ve been a member of some boards and committees. I’ve been a speaker at meetings and conferences. Those are some of my labels – my roles – and I could probably come up with dozens, just like you.

Until we understand who we are in Christ and whom God has called us to be and to become, we won’t have a good grasp on what we’re here to be doing each day. Because of my roles, my priorities begin with prayer and reading God’s Word. My priorities include intentionally thinking about the needs of my wife, my kids, and the other people God has placed under my shepherding care.

What about you? What are your priorities? What are the big roles you need to be thinking through?

Photo Credit: Richard Summers